Another miscarriage of justice in India?
By Marc Artzrouni
SNAP- Europe Coordinator
After a trial that lasted almost two years, a court in India has acquitted Bishop Franco Mulakkal who had been accused of repeatedly raping a nun in a church guest house in Kerala between 2014 and 2016.
The victim reported the crime in 2018 - but following months of protests, Mulakkal was charged only in 2019. The charges included "wrongful confinement, rape, unnatural sex, and criminal intimidation". Nuns who had joined the protests against the attempted cover-up of his crimes were disciplined, transferred, or even expelled from their congregation.
The not-guilty verdict was based on the fact that the victim's statement was made of "exaggerations and embellishments". The judge helpfully added that "The claim [...] that she was raped on 13 occasions under duress cannot be taken reliance on the basis of her solitary testimony. There is no consistency in the statement of the victim.”
By blaming the victim and casting doubts on her testimony the Catholic Church (through the legal system) sends once again a chilling message to future victims: "See what happens when you accuse us of sexual abuse?". Indeed, what victims in the future will have the courage to report these crimes when they know the legal system will blame them and let the perpetrators off the hook?
No words describe the appalling moral bankruptcy of a church and legal system which allow clerics to get away with unspeakable crimes against those who put their faith in an institution that so completely betrays them.
The verdict, which has been appealed, has sparked waves of protests and a letter-writing campaign of support from hundreds of citizens, nuns, and Bollywood celebrities.
Most strikingly, a former executive secretary of the Commission for Women of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India is quoted as saying that "[....] misogyny in the church has won. The verdict reinforces the idea that a powerful man can't be brought to justice". What to say when the "powerful men" are supposed to uphold the highest standards of morality and virtue but betray them in the vilest possible way?